U.S. Army Sgt. William Sanchez Jr., 28; a 2001 alumnus of Gilroy High School who grew up in the Garlic Capital, returned home Feb. 19 for a week of rest and relaxation after a nine month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Sanchez, a single parent of two boys, was greeted at the San Jose Airport by his family and 40 members of the Patriot Guards Riders, who escorted Sanchez all the way home to Gilroy. Sanchez’s two sons, Landen, 4; and Jayden, 7; were present at the airport to greet their father with big bear hugs.
Sanchez’s parents, William and Georgina Sanchez, also surprised their son by bringing his motorcycle to the airport so he could ride home alongside the Patriot Guard Riders.
The Patriot Guard is a “diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation,” with “one thing in common besides motorcycles – an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security,” according to the group’s website. A number of South County residents belong to this national organization. They frequently demonstrate their support for soldiers at parades, on Veterans/Memorial Day, at homecomings and funerals.
En route to Gilroy, Sanchez and his entourage were acknowledged by the Gilroy Fire and Police Departments. Fire fighters parked their engines and saluted Sanchez from two different highway overpasses; the GPD assisted with smooth passage from the 10th Street exit to Luchessa Avenue. A number of people also lined the streets and waved American Flags, Georgina said.
Georgina said her two grandsons enjoy Skyping with their father while he’s “at work.”
That’s how William refers to his service as a soldier, Georgina says, “because it’s his job to help protect our country.”
William attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Gilroy, and later graduated from GHS in 2001. His first overseas tour was in 2008 in Iraq. He now belongs to an Army maintenance platoon that is responsible for fixing vehicles. Sanchez will return to Afghanistan March 5. His sons live in Gilroy with their mother.